Two days after the Orlando shooting, the initial shock and horror has turned into residual anger and sadness. A determined resilience begins to take over that is the best of the American spirit, but the inevitable finger pointing and pontificating are in full swing, even as the tears for Orlando are still flowing.
It is hard to resist the urge to say something. Some should try harder. I hope I am not in that category, but a tragedy the size of the Orlando shooting cries for response. The various headlines I read two days later were the trigger for me.
The first headline was “ACLU Blames Conservative Christians for Orlando Terror Attack”. To be fair, the headline was wrong; the statements were made by two ACLU attorneys who were not necessarily speaking for the ACLU. These attorneys have accused “Christian conservatives” for cultivating a social and political environment that led to the Orlando shooting. They call for solidarity between Muslims and the LGBT community.
Whether one ascribes to the views of “Christian conservatives” (whatever that broad category may really include), the environment in which they operate is the same social and political environment in which the ACLU operates and the ACLU seeks to protect – the one that is the bedrock of the freedoms we have in this country – the foundation of freedom of speech, freedom of association and the freedom to practice (and talk about) the faith of one’s choice.
The same freedoms protect Muslims, gays and queers who advocate for their causes and express their beliefs.
Less than one month ago a speaker at an Orlando mosque, an expert in Sharia law, proclaimed that gays must die. While I am not prepared to suggest that this statement made in a religious setting to religious congregants crosses the line of protection for the freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion, it comes closer to that line than political lobbying done in the “public square” by some Christian conservatives.
There is no doubt that many Christians read the Bible to say that homosexuality is a sin, but believing that something is a sin and calling for the killing of the sinners is not the same thing.
Understanding is helpful in times like these (and always really), so let’s put this in context: Christians believe we are all sinners, including Christians.
Does that mean that Christians advocate the killing of other Christians (or anyone) because Christians (everyone) are sinners? Of course not!
I understand why the LGBT community responds as it does to the Christian stance on homosexuality. The Christian who is lobbying against equal rights laws that would allow homosexuality to thrive in the open, rather than be shut up in the shadows, is staking out a position that is contrary to the views of the LGBT community. That is also true of Republicans staking out positions contrary to the views of Democrats, and the other way around.
Does that mean that these differences amount to hate?
Political, personal and religions differences arouse passion, but HATE is not the rhetoric that has any capability of bridging the gaps. The hate rhetoric is, itself, inflammatory.
The LGBT community has the constitutionally protected right to use that rhetoric, as misguided as other people may think it is. Perhaps, lobbying to force morality on people who do not want that morality is also misguided. That is a fair question. Calling these fundamental differences hate is accusatory and inciting.
Christians taking these positions are motivated by the desire to uphold a moral standard for themselves and society – the same motivation that the LGBT community is attempting to do for itself and society in lobbying for the opposite position.
That the two positions are mutually exclusive does not mean that hate is at play (on either side). We do not hate each other just because we disagree, and believing that disagreement means hate is a dangerous development in our society with far reaching, potentially freedom quashing, ramifications.
Jimmy Kimmel said the day after the shooting, “This country is built on the idea that we do not agree on everything, that we are a tolerant, free nation, that encourages debate, free thinking, believing, or not, in what we choose.” That goes for Christians, Muslims and homosexuals. We are all protected under that same umbrella of freedom, and that freedom does not lead to killing in night clubs, churches or anywhere else.
Differences of belief, morality and politics are not the same as taking up a gun and mowing down innocent people in cold blood.
Still another headline caught my attention this morning. This headline was a little different: Dan and me: my coming out as a friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A. This story involves a Campus Pride leader and the President of a Chick-fil-A. While Campus Pride was protesting Chick-fil-A, the President of Chick-fil-A reached out to the Campus Pride leader. They began a dialogue that continued for years and developed into a true friendship.
Significantly, the article written by the Campus Pride leader, Shane Windmeyer, states that neither man changed position on the issue of homosexuality. In fact, Campus Pride continued to protest Chick-fil-A, and the Chick-fil-A President continues to hold that homosexuality is a sin. Yet their opposing beliefs and worldviews did not prevent these two men from developing a mutual and genuine friendship and respect for each other.
We will never live in a homogeneous society. We simply will not. People are born with different genes, different abilities and different inclinations and have the right to adopt different beliefs. People are different, and people have differences in their fundamental views of the world.
The thing is, we have and always will have differences of opinion. Worldviews matter. They gave meaning to life, but we will not ever all have the same worldviews unless we live in a totalitarian state in which freedoms have been eliminated. It simply will not happen.
Those differences must not be equated with hatred. Love and respect can thrive in the midst of differences. In fact, love is most alive and most poignant where differences exist.
Unfortunately, hatred also thrives on differences. Good and evil occupy the same space. They vie for position in the same arena. Therefore, confusing the two is all the more problematic
We have a wrong conception of Love and Hate, just as we confuse differences and hate. We think that hatred draws lines and love eliminates them. The fact is that lines may be drawn by either love or hate, or by neither. The difference is in the way love and hate approach those lines. Hate crosses those lines to attack and do harm; love crosses those lines with different motivations.
To bring this all to a point, I also came across two more headlines: 1) Chick-fil-A Is Closed on Sundays. But These Workers Still Made Food for Orlando Response Effort; and 2) Sacramento Baptist Pastor Praises Orlando Massacre. The point is that love and hate can and do exist on both sides of just about any line that can be drawn.
Disagreement is going to happen and will always exist in a free society. Those disagreements can and will go to the foundation of our fundamental beliefs, personal identities and the very fabric of each other’s lives. Disagreement, however, is not hate.
Hate encourages people to kill and celebrates the killing. Love befriends a pastor who’s moral and political beliefs are different than mine. Hate picks up a gun and shoots innocent people. Love makes chicken on Sunday for people we fundamentally disagree with.